At Principal Sparling-
A Festival Trophy
The Choir at Sargent Park
|In those day
Nellie and Gilbert Harrison were members of Greenwood United Church
their children, Glen and Joyce, participants in the Sunday School; a
solid West End family bringing up their children through the hardships
of the Great Depression and the uncertainties of World War II. And
then, somewhere between the end of the War in 1945 and year 1951 Glen
met Margaret Dow. They were married in 1951 and the rest…..as follows.
Margaret’s career in music started when she was still a high school
student at Kelvin. They put on the Mikado and Margaret was the
accompanist, her first G & S show.
Glen started his career as music teacher at Lord Selkirk School in
Winnipeg in 1951. His teaching then took him to Principal Sparling ,
Sargent Park and Elmwood Schools. Along the way he was training his
school choirs and entering them in the Manitoba Music festival each
Margaret’s work as a music teacher took her to eight schools in both
Winnipeg and Seven Oakes school divisions. Starting at Machray and
ending at Carpathia School. (She had time off in the middle of all
that to have a family.) Along the way and up to the present she has
worked her considerable skill as an accompanist, 13 years at Rainbow
Stage, and 18 years as both organist and choir leader of Oxford United
Church. Add to this her work as “lesson accompanist” for the singing
students of Nina Dempsey and the string students of John Waterhouse,
accompanist for Jon Vickers and Mary Morrison when they performed
together in Winnipeg, and organist at St. Paul’s United where Glen was
Choir director. Margaret’s list of these kinds of engagements goes on
and on. Good accompanists are never short of work in musical Winnipeg.
Back to Glen: While still in the classroom he started as the “voice”
of the bi-weekly Manitoba School Broadcast “Let’s Sing Together” from
1956 to 1978. This co-production of the CBC and The Manitoba
Department of Education was very popular in elementary school
classrooms first in Western Canada and later on national radio. From
1971 to ’78 Glen worked for the Department of Education and produced
both their radio and television programs.
After 10 years as a school music teacher for the Winnipeg School
Division Glen was hired in 1961 as Music Supervisor in Seven Oaks
School Division in West Kildonan. During his 10 years there, Glen
produced 3 Broadway shows for the School Division’s Community School
Program in which members of the West Kildonan community and Glen
Harrison’s friends joined to put on Die Fleidermaus, Carousel and
If I may skip back to the late ‘50’s Glen was once selected as a
contestant in the CBC series “Singing Stars of Tomorrow”. He didn’t
win, but neither did one of his fellow contestants, Jean Ramsey, who
was soprano soloist at Westminster Church at the time.
In 1971, after 10 years with the Seven Oaks School Division, Glen
moved to the Department of Education for 7 years (see previous
reference). Then, in 1978, he became Supervisor of Music for the
Winnipeg School Division from which he retired in 1989.
But what was he doing with his spare time over all these years?
Besides being Choir Director of Westminster church he was, from its
very beginning a member of the artistic staff of Rainbow Stage. At
first he trained the chorus and soloists for various shows (does
anyone remember Chu Chin Chow?) and in the early 60’s he became the
conductor. He also directed and conducted musicals at Manitoba Theater
Center when it was still located in its building on Portage Avenue
East (just a few steps down the street from Jimmy Goundry’s Coffee
Shop at Portage and Main.) There he worked with John Hirsch and other
early MTC directors. He also had time to teach classes off and on in
the University of Manitoba faculty of education for 7 years.
Which brings us to 1990 when, with Glen’s retirement, both he and
Margaret were casting about looking for a retirement project. And the
Gilbert and Sullivan Society was born, Margaret as its accompanist and
Glen as its director.
Fifty years in the life of a city sees many changes; in the cultural
life of a city, in the musical life of a city. Winnipeg’s music scene
has been rich and varied; Glen and Margaret’s contribution to that
scene has been constant, also varied and altogether remarkable. We at
Westminster have enjoyed Glen’s leadership for all those fifty
years and Margaret’s contribution for many of them. Our sincere thanks
to them both.
A Big School Broadcast
from the Concert Hall